|This article does not cite any references or sources. (February 2007)|
A silver medal in sports and other similar areas involving competition is a medal made of, or plated with, silver awarded to the second place finisher, or runner-up, of contests or competitions such as the Olympic Games, Commonwealth Games, etc. The outright winner receives a gold medal and the third place a bronze medal. More generally, silver is traditionally a metal sometimes used for all types of high-quality medals, including artistic ones.
Academic studies generally found out that silver medalists are less happy than the bronze medalists that they had outperformed. Silver medalists were known to suffer self-recrimination and gold medal envy, particularly those who had lost championship games or missed out of the title by a close score, whereas bronze medalists were usually happy just to make the podium.
San Francisco State University psychology professor David Matsumoto and Bob Willingham of World of Judo magazine conducted a study of "Silver Medal Face" by examining photos of judo competitors at the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens. The study found that 13 of 14 gold medalists smiled at the end of their matches, as did 18 of 26 bronze medalists. The silver medalists were either blank-faced or rueful, and the ones “who displayed something displayed discrete, negative emotions”, being much more likely than other athletes to display forced smiles on the podium.
There were some notable exceptions; for instance Elizabeth Manley and Paul Wylie were pleased to win silver medals in their respective Olympic figure skating disciplines after not expected to be podium contenders.
In 1896, winners' medals were in fact silver. The custom of gold-silver-bronze for the first three places dates from the 1904 games and has been copied for many other sporting events. Minting the medals is the responsibility of the host city. From 1928–1968 the design was always the same: the obverse showed a generic design by Florentine artist Giuseppe Cassioli with text giving the host city; the reverse showed another generic design of an Olympic champion. From 1972–2000, Cassioli's design (or a slight reworking) remained on the obverse with a custom design by the host city on the reverse. Noting that Cassioli's design showed a Roman amphitheatre for what was originally a Greek games, a new obverse design was commissioned for the Athens 2004 Games. Winter Olympics medals have been of more varied design.